A young undergraduate passionate about weather forecasting has emerged as the new weatherman in virtual Kashmir, reports Minhaj Masoodi
If the weather is gloomy or the mercury is up, one person is always in discussion – Sonam Lotus, the Director of Srinagar’s Met Centre. He is roasting online if his predictions do not come true.
Over the years, however, another little weatherman has grown up. Faizan Arif, who, at 20, is a social media sensation. His Twitter handle is being followed by thousands for precise weather predictions. A resident of Nawa Kadal, Srinagar, Faizan has emerged as a poster boy in weather forecasting.
Pursuing his Bachelor’s in Physics from Amity University (Lucknow), weather forecasting has always been Faiza’s passion. Having no formal training, he learned by studying forecasting from books and the internet, which enabled him to interpret weather forecasting data.
“I have been attracted to weather and meteorological phenomena since my childhood. There was something about it which attracted me,” said Faizan.
Using Online Apps
Faizan would initially use apps like AccuWeather to study weather but now relies on the data of more than 15 different international weather models for his predictions.
“Initially, I would base my predictions by collecting data from apps like AccuWeather. However, I don’t rely on just two or three models but more than 15 different ones,” Faizan said. “I started with weather models like Global Forecasting System (GFS), an American agency owned weather prediction model and later started using ECMWF (European Central for medium-range Forecasting).”
Earlier, to access data on the ECMWF weather model, one had to buy a subscription. But now they have removed the pay-wall for over 90 per cent of the content. He said that the data even from the 1950s could now also be accessed.
Faizan formally started predicting weather on social media in 2017. He created an Instagram page, by the name of Kashmir Weather.
“I started uploading forecasts on my Instagram page in 2017 when I was in 11th standard,” he said.
After Article 370
But after the reading down of article 370 in August 2019, when internet connections were suspended for six months in Kashmir, his work got hampered. But that did not dampen his spirits.
After mobile and telephone connections were restored, he used to call his sister who was studying in Lucknow at the time to know about the formation of various weather systems. He would then accordingly interpret the data and tell his sister to upload the forecasts on his Instagram page on his behalf. “I frequently called her. I used to tell her exactly what to post on my Instagram page.”
Last year, in a bid to expand his reach, he also started giving weather updates on other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Telegram.
The Present Status
Currently, he has almost 60000 followers on Instagram, over 9000 on Twitter and more than 4000 followers on Facebook. His Twitter handle has become popular with famous Kashmiri politicians and journalists following him.
Faizan has also cultivated a dedicated following among Kashmir’s apple growers for providing hourly updates. Despite Kashmir’s MeT department giving daily forecasts, people associated with agriculture often contact him to know about the forecasts. As a result, Faizan’s interest in agriculture is also growing.
Faizan, now a trusted source of weather-related information, makes 15-day advance forecasts for farmers to warn them of untimely precipitations. Although the accuracy can take a hit because of 10–15-day forecasts, they help prepare the farmers mentally, but Faizan also keeps them updated about changes in weather patterns if any.
Additionally, he is also trying to learn a computer language, Python to visualize weather data and make weather maps by interpreting it, something he said, once he is able to master, he could create a proper website for his data related activities with minute details.
“Data visualization for weather maps is rarely done here. Nobody does it in India. It is a very rare course,” Faizan claimed.
However, despite attempts, he has not been able to find a tutor who could teach him the course. He is currently taking help from the internet to pick up the skill. “I was told to look for a tutor outside of the valley,” he said.
Last year, he did long-range weather forecasting from November to February. He had talked about the average conditions, snowfall predictions throughout the winter. Although, his November and December predictions went very well but for the January period, his predictions went topsy-turvy.
“India MeT Department gives long-range forecasts for India but not separately for Jammu and Kashmir. I did the predictions separately for Jammu and Kashmir. However, owing to some newer learning, I am going to observe my predictions this year for long-range forecasts. I might start doing it regularly from next year,” he hoped
Currently doing it for passion, he aims to take up weather forecasting as a profession in future.
“I intend to take it up as a profession but as of now, I want to finish my graduation. People often say I could earn a lot of money by creating my own app and website but that is not a priority as of now,” he said.